Don’t ask me why, but with the dawn of a new year I’ve caught a book reading bug. Yep, I checked out the shelves in my study and discovered a heap of tomes I never got around to reading for various reasons.

I picked up ‘Dear Life,’ a collection of short stories by Alice Munro, in a charity shop for €2 in an attempt to redress the lack of female authors in my modest collection. It also helps that I love short stories, and Munro is very good. I may be back to check out more charity shops soon for more bargains.

Colum McCann’s ‘TransAtlantic’ is a really great read, a fictionalised work connecting famous Americans like social reformer and former slave Frederick Douglass, Senator George Mitchell and aviators the Wright Brothers to Ireland. Beuatifully written and engrossing.

Taking a break from fiction, I dipped into Max Hasting’s ‘All Hell Let Loose’ (€1 in a book sale) a lengthy history of World War II which drew for the most part on the personal stories and comments of ordinary participants on the battlefield and their partners and families at home. Some interesting material but a long slog of a read.

After that I lost myself in Sebastian Barry’s ‘Days Without End’, a brilliant novel set in 19th century US, with a cast of a gay couple, the Civil War and Indian wars, all told through the amazing writing of Barry, one of my favourite authors.

Speaking of great writing, ‘Point to Point Navigation’ by Gore Vidal encompasses tales and pithy observations from his later life. His reflections are sharp, drawing a few chuckles out of me, although one of the best pieces is about the final stages of his partner’s illness, told with great love and honesty.

Finally – and best of all – was ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ by JD Vance. If you want to get inside the mind of a Trump supporter and understand why we are where we are, Vance’s dysfunctional upbringing in rural America is superb. It’s a shortish work, mixing his family’s story and those of their neighbours with some depressing facts about America’s underclass.

Still awaiting my attention are about 40 other books which I may get around to this year. It depends on how much time I have on my hands and my mood. Sometimes I’ll read a bunch of novels, other times biographies or historical works. Then I can go over a month without looking at a book.

Right now I’m halfway through ‘Trinity Tales’ edited by Catherine Heaney. I’m only reading it because Daire went there so I have a casual connection. After that I’ll be blogging and writing a lot more.